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Women Between Islam and Western Society

Women Between Islam and Western Society

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Woman between Islam and Western Society highlights the conceptual difference about women in Islam and in the west by analyzing that the evils of Muslim Society stems from the gap between principle and practice, whereas the evils of western society are the result of a clash between principles and realities. Western civilization has formed principles independent of religious principles.
Woman between Islam and Western Society highlights the conceptual difference about women in Islam and in the west by analyzing that the evils of Muslim Society stems from the gap between principle and practice, whereas the evils of western society are the result of a clash between principles and realities. Western civilization has formed principles independent of religious principles.

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Published by: iRaghd on Jan 12, 2010
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05/01/2013

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An anthology of the Qur’an, prepared by English
Orientalist Edward William Lane (1801-1876), was
published in 1843. It carried a foreword by way of
introduction to Islamic teaching, which, inter-alia,
stated that” the fatal point in Islam is the
degradation of woman.”1

This ill-considered observation gained such
currency that it was commonly repeated as if it
were an established fact. Almost a century and a
half has elapsed since then, and, with the passage of
time, this conviction has, if anything, deepened. It
has even been quoted as if it were gospel truth in a
judgement passed in the Supreme Court of India by
the Chief Justice of India, Mr. Y.V. Chandra Chud,
in the now notorious Muhammad Ahmad-Shah
Bano divorce case.

To interpret the Islamic concept of woman as
“degradation” of woman is to distort the actual
issue. Islam has never asserted that woman is
inferior to man: it has only made the point that
woman is differently constituted.

Woman Between Islam and Western Society

Forward

~ 15 ~

Let us suppose that a doctor tells his patient that his
eye is a very delicate organ of the body, to be treated
gently and with great care, unlike his fingernails,
which can be cut and filed, if necessary. The doctor’s
instruction does not mean that he is degrading the
eye vis-à-vis the nail. He is only pointing out the
difference between the nail and the eye.

If all the laws relating to men and women in Islam
are based on this fundamental reality that men and
women are of two different sexes, it is because
distinctive differences between man and woman are
established biological facts.

This being so, male and female spheres of activity
cannot be one and the same, whether in family or in
social life. There must necessarily be differences in
the kind of work that they do, and also in their
places of work.

All the revealed scriptures have held the same
concept of woman, and thousands of years have
passed without its ever having been doubted. It is
only in modern times that it has been challenged by
the women’s liberation movement, which holds that
men and women are alike in every respect and that

Woman Between Islam and Western Society

Forward

~ 16 ~

both should, therefore, be given equal
opportunities.

This movement first reared its head in Britain in the
18th century, later spreading across the whole of
Europe and America. In 1772, a certain impetus was
given to the movement by the publication of a book
by Mary Wollstonecraft, entitled A Vindication of the
Rights of Women.
The gist of this book was that
women should receive the same treatment as men
in education, work opportunities and politics, and
the same moral standards should be applied to both
sexes.2 Such was the zeal and fervor with which this
movement was launched that it spread far and
wide. Both men and women participated in it, and
even talking about the differences between man and
woman was brushed aside as being a sign of
backwardness. By the beginning of the 20th century,
this trend of thought had established its hold all
over the world, and laws came to be made or
modified accordingly. All doors were to be thrown
open to men and women alike.

In practice, however, this experiment has met with
utter failure. Even after a struggle of almost 200

Woman Between Islam and Western Society

Forward

~ 17 ~

years, women have failed to achieve a status equal to
that of men. They are almost as backward today as
they were before the launching of the “women’s lib”
movement. The only practical result has been that
women have come out of the home, and are to be
seen everywhere in the company of men. By degrees
they have lost their femininity without having
achieved the goal of equal status with men in every
domain for which they paid this very high price.

The failure of women’s liberation has led to wide-
ranging research being carried out on this topic,
employing strictly scientific methods. Finally, the
patent biological differences between men and
women have been scientifically proved. These
differences have all along been a reason for women’s
failure to find an equal place in every department of
life. Where philosophers had cast doubts upon the
religious concept of women — quite erroneously as
it turned out — scientific findings have now re-
established this concept’s veracity.

Now the question arises as to why it is that once
science has supported the religious concept of man
and woman as being the right one, the allegation

Woman Between Islam and Western Society

Forward

~ 18 ~

continues to be made that Islam has “degraded”
woman. For instance, the Indian freedom fighter,
S.M. Joshi, who was interviewed in connection with
a government-sponsored scheme to record the
voices of freedom fighters for posterity, stated that
“the Shariat of the Muslims and the Manusmruti of
the Hindus — followed by both communities for
centuries — were equally socially reactionary.”3

Such remarks are made so indiscriminately and so
frequently that it is high time we concerned
ourselves less with our own sense of injury and
more with the possible root causes. The main reason
is that the results of research on the differences
between man and woman have remained only an
academic finding and have not yet formed the basis
of a popular intellectual revolution. The social
penetration of these ideas will have to take place in
the same way as monotheism replaced polytheism,
that is, through the kind of intellectual revolution
set in motion by the Prophet Muhammad and his
Companions with the special succor of God.

Such an intellectual revolution in our own times is
certainly not far-fetched, since modern science has

Woman Between Islam and Western Society

Forward

~ 19 ~

provided all the arguments in its favor. It is only a
question now of sufficient number of believers
engaging themselves wholeheartedly in the
dissemination of those findings for a popular,
intellectual revolution to take place. It is my earnest
desire that the following chapters should provide
the inspiration for this history-making task.

Wahiduddin Khan
May 19, 1994

The Islamic Centre
C-29, Nizamuddin West
New Delhi.

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